Iron Man (3rd series) #35

Issue Date: 
December 2000
Story Title: 
Power, Part Three: The Land

Joe Quesada and Frank Tieri (Story), Alitha Martinez (Art), Rob Hunter (Inks), Steve Oliff (Colors), Richard Starkings and COMICRAFT (Letters), Brian Smith (Assistant Editor), Bobbie Chase (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief)

Brief Description: 

Inside Fours Freedom Plaza, Reed Richards helps decipher the memories of the alien, Max Power, from Iron Man, after Iron Man was telepathically attacked by the now-comatose man. Together, they discover that Max Power discovered that Ego, the living planet, has been sent to Littletown, Nebraska, due to the Maximum Security program initiated on Earth. Iron Man and the Fantastic Four go to Littletown, where everything seems normal at first, but the five soon discover that the whole entire town has been absorbed by Ego. Ego ends the charade and attacks the Fantastic Four, while Iron Man discovers where the source of the Ego-spore is. He discovers that a delusional elderly couple has been taking care of the spore and thinks that it is their child. Iron Man injects the spore with an inoculant to make sure Ego does not set its roots in Littletown, thus slowing down his spread. Ego knocks out everyone and disappears to another part of the planet. Reed comes up with the idea of recompressing Ego back into the state he was put in when he was shipped to Earth, but he will need a cosmic host. Suddenly, the Thing attacks a mysterious man approaching them, who ends up being the Silver Surfer.

Full Summary: 

Outside Fours Freedom Plaza, a mysterious man in a trench coat watches as employees of the F & T Co. cleaning crew haul away a load of rubble from the Fantastic Four’s most recent battle. The man walks to a hole in the street and then looks up to the top of Fours Freedom Plaza. He begins to levitate off the ground and flies towards the roof as onlookers watch in awe.

Iron Man’s Memory Chip:

His name is Max Power. He is from a world far away from Earth that is totally different. He is far from his home world, but still a victim of the darkness that landed him on Earth. He was once a man of peace, but he kept a terrible secret of an addiction that was beyond his control.

Power’s secret was revealed by the Tribunal officers, who discovered his hidden laboratory and revealed his secret to everyone on his planet. He, Max Power, practiced the Black Arts. His crime was so heinous that it cannot be spoken of. Power was accused by the Tribunal of practicing the darkest of the Black Arts; science. He could do nothing else except confess that he was a scientist.

The confession earned Power a punishment of exile. He was put onto a ship, never to walk on his land again. That is how he came to walk on the penal colony known as Los Angeles. Planet Los Angeles, according to Power, was a barbaric and primitive place compared to his old home, a place which he vowed to know again.

In a few days, Power witnessed something that would confirm his vow. In an alley with some of his new friends, Power looked into the sky as Rogue of the X-Men battled Magneto. Power asked his friends who the beings in the sky are. They were surprised that he did not know, but one of them told him that they are “super-people.” Power told his friends that he was not aware that Angelicans could fly.

Later on, the four men sat on a park bench. A girl on a skateboard passed by them and told the “lousy bums” to fetch the fliers she tossed to them. “Fetch you as well, young friend!” said Power happily. He picked up a flier and asked his friends how a person becomes “super.” Power quickly learned that normal Angelicans could not become “super.” The “supers” were an aberrant species, normally divided into two specific groups: super-“heroes” and super-“villains.” Deciding who was who was arbitrary, because it was based on the current moral standards. While investigating, Power also discovered what “raves” were.

Power described raves as religious gatherings in which Angelicans purged themselves of guilt and stress all the while seeking a higher plane of existence by dulling the senses with cacophony and chemicals. Simply put, Angelicans wanted to be “super” Angelicans. Power realized that and made a deal with a local retailer to design a safer and less destructive drug that the Angelicans were using.

Surreptitiously, Power traveled around Planet Los Angeles and gathered DNA samples from a large variety of super-Angelicans from both the hero and villain side, including Hawkeye, Mystique, Gambit and Spider-Man. Thus, the Max Serum was created, which allowed an Angelican to physically assume the powers of a “super” for fifteen Angelican minutes. He also included Vitamin B and anti-oxidants, which surprisingly to him were not in other designer drugs. The serum was a success and he made a great deal of money, which he hoped will one day help him return home.


In the lab of Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man finishes relaying what is in his memory chips. Reed tells Iron Man that it is enough for now. He brings Iron Man down from the table he is on and tells him that they are not getting anywhere yet. Iron Man apologizes and tells Reed that Mr. Stark thought it would be best if the Fantastic Four extracted Max Power’s memories from him, since the man nailed him with a telepathic burst a few hours ago.

Iron Man again apologizes for the information not being useful in Reed’s search for the Ego spore. Wearily, Reed tells him that science is all about dead ends and hunting. It just requires a lot of coffee. Reed turns on a monitor and begins to relay the facts that they already know. Ego, the living planet, is on Earth. Ego is the size of a planet, but apparently he was compressed into a smaller form when he was transported to Earth. The “Ego-spore” has begun to expand and absorb all organic material around it. If left unchecked, he will absorb until there is nothing left to absorb.

Iron Man adds that Max Power has been in contact with Ego recently and he may be Earth’s only hope of locating the spore and destroying it. Reed tells Iron Man that Power’s drug that gives humans super powers was made using a DNA sequence unique to the Ego-spore. Power may know where the spore is then. As Reed props Iron Man back onto the table, he tells him that he has been monitoring Ego’s spread. They don’t have much time. Since Power is in a coma, only Iron Man can help.

Reed tells Iron Man to concentrate on Power’s memories. Iron Man begins to stutter and tells Reed that there is something odd. He starts to play audio from Power’s memories again and discovers that Power was able to travel the country using a vehicle supplied by his benefactors. His makeshift sensor array allowed him to track down the DNA sequences he needed for his serum. That is how he reached Littletown, Nebraska.

Iron Man’s Memory Chip:

Power traveled to a farm in Littletown, Nebraska, where he met two frightened Angelicans. He told the Angelicans that he meant no harm, but the elderly couple in the house only told him that they were not Angelicans. They were Baptists. Power sensed fear from them and immobilized the two with a post-hypnotic suggestion to make them believe he was never there. Then he went to the basement and collected the DNA sequence he needed.


Iron snaps back to reality and tells Reed that they need to go to Littletown, Nebraska. Perplexed, Reed tells Iron Man that Littletown was not on his list of possibilities, which is bad because that means Ego the living planet is better at hiding his spore. For now, Reed decides to assume that Power’s advanced alien technology was better able to find the spore. Iron Man unplugs himself from Reed’s machine and tells him that he will gather the Avengers. Reed tells him that time is of the essence and in case he has not heard, he has a team of his own.

As the Invisible Woman, Human Torch and the Thing load their jet, Thing complains that he has to skip out on a poker game to Nebraska, which is “Mary Poppins” land. Susan tells Ben that Mary Poppins was from England, but Ben tells her it’s the same deal to him. He also wonders out loud why Iron Man isn’t taking his own team and wonders when the Fantastic Four became the Triple-A Squad for the Avengers. “Who am I,” says Ben, “John Rocker?!”

Reed and Iron Man come and Reed tells Ben that he has his own reasons, because this could just be a false alarm. Sarcastically, Ben jokes that he would not want to ruin someone’s golf game until they are sure that the planet is going to be eaten up. Johnny also jokingly comments that, when they have guests, it is suddenly Ben Grimm Comedy Hour. Ben tells Johnny that he has underwear older than him so, when he wants his opinion, he will shake his bassinet. The Fantastic Four and Iron Man board and take off as the mysterious being in the trench coat reaches the roof. However, he is too late the catch the team’s attention.

Less than an hour later, the five heroes reach Littletown. The five stand in the middle of the town and stare and the mundane setting, which is not what the setting were expecting. As Ben props a cannon on his shoulder, he sarcastically tells Reed that he cracked this case wide open. He does not know what is more sinister, the potato sack races or shuffleboard contests.

Sue tells Ben that things are rarely what they seem, but Ben does not buy it, because the town looks like Martha Stewart on Ritalin. Iron Man tells Reed that Ben may have a point, because he did not see the house from the aerial view. Ben agrees and asks if they can go bowling now. Reed tells him they will go later and Ben shoots a red ball from the cannon high into the air. The ball explodes and a dust like substance spreads over the town.

Ben tells Reed that they fired dirt over the town, so their mission must be a success. Reed begins to explain that the dirt is actually a dust probe. The dust-like particles are actually nanites. Ben begins to mutter that he hopes Reed does not explain it scientifically. Reed continues to explain and says that nanites are microscopic robots capable of executing complex instruction sets. Ben cuts him off and tells Reed to just say that it is magic dirt.

Iron Man explains that the nanites will float over the town. If there is any sign of Ego, then the nanites will send back readings to his handheld unit in minutes. Johnny asks what they should do in the meantime. Reed says that they could ask around. If Ego is in the area then there has to be some strange activity sighted by someone. Before Sue, Ben and Johnny leave, Reed tells them not to alarm anyone. Ben laughs and tells Reed that he knows how to handle it. He starts bellowing down the street that the Martians are coming, as the townspeople look on at them in amazement. A kid comes up to Ben, who asks the little boy if he is not scared by his “rock-like yet ruggedly handsome features.” The kid says no and then asks for an autograph.

Johnny and Sue walk past a soda shop and Johnny looks into the window. He sees a group of cheerleaders inside looking at him and tells his sister that he is going to stop by to interview the locals. Sue goes to a wind chime shop and admires the chimes. She tells the old lady there that her son would love these.

With a cigar in his mouth, Ben carries some kids on his shoulders and asks them a few questions, such as if they should not be in school, if they have seen any living planets around and if they could explain N’Sync to him. Johnny uses his fire to make some hearts. The cheerleaders listen to him as he exaggerates a tale of him fighting Dr. Doom. As Sue looks at some items in the wind chime store she asks the lady if there have been any earthquakes or land shifts. The woman says no and that the Fantastic Four’s presence as been the most excitement the town has had in years.

While Reed and Iron Man check there machines, Iron Man excuses himself for asking, but wonders if Reed actually lives with Ben considering the “magic dirt” comment. Reed tells Iron Man that it is Ben’s way of masking his insecurity. Iron Man thinks of Triathlon after that comment and Reed tells him that he has been with Ben so long that he has learned to screen it out. Reed suddenly gets some readings from the machines. He looks at the screen and quickly tells everyone the get out of town.

Sue is confused as Reed tells them over their intercoms to drop what they are doing and to get out. Sue tells Reed that they haven’t found the spore yet. Reed plunges a rod into the ground and tells everyone that the entire town is the Ego spore!

Ben tells Reed that he is too lat, as the little kids around him wrap their tentacles around him. Johnny is picked up by the cheerleaders and is thrown through the glass window of the soda shop towards a hardware store. He is scared to flame on until he knows who is human and who is not. At the last moment, the store opens up and swallows Johnny. A massive fist rises from the ground and grabs Sue, who tells Reed that they are in deep trouble.

As Iron Man blasts some tentacles, he asks Reed if he can pinpoint the spore. Reed tells him no, but they must be close since Ego is on the defensive. He tells Iron Man to keep Ego of his back long enough to grab a pack from the cargo bay.

Ben grabs a kid off of him and chucks the boy. Johnny calls Reed from inside the hardware store and tells him that his nova flame is useless against Ego and that he might need a hand. Sue tells him she will come as soon as she can use a force field to pry the massive fist open. She succeeds and heads past Ben. Ben tells her to watch out and pushes her out of the way as the fist smashes into him instead.

Reed is concerned for Sue, who tells him that she is okay, but that the fist is forming itself out of houses and “people” into mammoth proportions. Worse yet, it is going after Ben, who is unconscious. Sue projects a force field over Ben who wakes up. Ben leaps out of the way as the field breaks and yells out his battle cry. “It’s clobberin’ time!”

Angrily, Ben takes the fist and smashes it into the hardware store, simultaneously freeing Johnny. Sue catches him with a force field and asks Reed what they should do next. Reed tells her that the attacks have subsided. He has harnessed the inoculant rig to Iron Man’s armor. However, they don’t know if Ego has calmed down or if this is the eye of the storm.

Reed explains to his absent team members via intercom that they know that Earth is now a penal colony for intergalactic criminals and it is probable that that is how Ego returned to Earth. They should group up. Sue cuts Reed off and tells her husband that they are in the eye of the storm. Sue, Johnny and Ben look up as the town forms into a towering wave of dirt and building heading straight for them.

Iron Man tells Reed that they should help the others. Reed tells him that he will go and for Iron Man to take the handheld. The readings show that one spot of land was not devoured by Ego, roughly the same size as the house Iron Man described earlier. Reed looks off into the distance and sees a house emerge out of nowhere. Iron Man flies towards it and asks why they did not see it earlier. Reed explains that Ego is using up all his power and is unable to hide the house anymore with his mass. The spore must be in it. Reed tells Iron Man that the Fantastic Four will keep Ego busy while he gets into the house.

As Iron Man approaches the structure, he wonders if it was prudent to let him come to the house. Though he is extremely intelligent himself, it is Reeds experiment. If the pack gets damaged, he could fix the mechanical or electronic parts of it, but he would be helpless if the biologic part is damaged.

Iron Man enters the basement of the house and is shot several times on the side. He turns to see an elderly couple with two shotguns. The woman tells him to stay away from her baby and if he doesn’t back off he should be prepared to eat lead. Iron Man recognizes her from Power’s memories and thinks how deranged it is to think of Ego as her baby. He looks at the cradle and sees the disgusting mass in it whose tentacles reach into the basement ground.

Iron Man approaches the elderly couple to disarm them before they can damage his inoculant pack. He tells them that he is not going to harm them, but the woman claims he has come to kill her baby. Iron Man explains that he knows she is concerned, but points out that they both know that the thing is not her baby. He bends the barrel of the shotgun and tells her that if she shoots the bullets will ricochet and can kill her or her husband, but thinks to himself that that it is a convenient lie. Iron Man tells the couple that they seem to be suffering from a hysterical delusion. He then approaches Ego and injects the inoculant into the spore. The spore begins to shriek. The elderly woman screams and tries to reach for her baby, but Iron Man grabs her and her husband.

Iron Man flies them out of the house as Ego swallows it up. He explains what is happening to the woman, who is concerned for her child. Iron Man tells her that her “baby” is gone. He then calls out to Reed. The Fantastic Four are wrapped up in tentacles, but Reed tells Iron Man that they have contained the spore. “Not contained enough,” thinks Iron Man, as the tentacles lash out and grab him. As he and the couple are dragged into the Ego mass he closes off his suit to contain the oxygen. Then he blacks out.

Iron Man wakes up to see Reed, who tells him that the inoculant took longer than they expected. Iron Man gets up and asks if Ego is dead. Reed looks at Sue, who is attending to the elderly couple, and tells Iron Man that they were too late. They stopped the spore from setting roots in Littletown, but it has migrated elsewhere. It could be anywhere. Iron Man looks out to the barren landscape and asks about the town. Reed tells him it is gone.

Solemnly, Iron Man asks if they failed. Reed tells him that they slowed Ego down and bought valuable time for Earth. Iron Man reminds Reed that everyone in the town is dead. The other man tells the golden Avenger that they were dead long before the five of them arrived. Ma and Pa were spared by the spore, because it seemed to have developed an emotional attachment to them. Ego has never done this and it may be of use later on.

Ben comes by and asks if they get up now and search for the spore, which could be anywhere on the planet. He thinks they should start looking at Burger King. Iron Man asks if Ego had a humanoid form when he came. Reed tells them that he did have a host, but the host was destroyed when Ego began to expand. They may be able to recompress Ego, but he has no clue how to do that. Even then they would need a host powerful enough to contain him, most likely a cosmic host.

Iron Man asks what they would do with Ego after that. Ben tells them that they will book him on Letterman for his “Stupid Pet Tricks” skit. He looks off into the distance and sees a man in a trench coat approaching them. He charges towards the man, who is covered in mud. Johnny tells him to wait, but Ben says that they have been fighting living mud since they got here, so a mud covered man has to be the enemy.

Ben smacks the man, whose trench coat falls off. The five look in shock and surround the man. As they look down at the Silver Surfer, Iron Man asks Reed what he was saying earlier about needing a cosmic host.

Characters Involved: 

Iron Man

Human Torch II, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Silver Surfer

Ego, the living planet

Max Power

F & T Co. workers

Ma and Pa

Max Power’s Memories:

Cable, Gambit, Giant-Man, Hawkeye, Human Torch, Moonstar, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Quicksilver, Storm, Warbird (all various heroes)

Magneto, Mystique (various villains)

Story Notes: 

This story is part of the company wide Maximum Security storyline and continues from Uncanny X-Men #387. This issue continues into Bishop: The Last X-Man #15, Captain America (3rd Series) #36, Captain Marvel #12, Incredible Hulk #21, Peter Parker, Spider-Man #24, and Thunderbolts #45.

Iron Man was telepathically blasted by Max Power in Iron Man (3rd Series) #34.

On an interesting note, which is probably a major editorial mistake, at the end of Maximum Security #1, the Avengers discover exactly where the Ego spore was, because an agent of S.T.A.R.S. was sent to investigate the town after Ma called them. However, in the beginning of this issue for some reason, no one knows where the Ego spore is.

Issue Information: